Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Meanwhile in Latin America

The OAS tells Condi to butt out and Bolivia's Mesa steps down.
Monday, tens of thousands of Indians, miners and labor members staged the largest demonstration in La Paz in weeks. More than 500 protesters were turned away by acrid tear gas as they tried to close in on [President Carlos] Mesa's seat of power.


The protest marked the fourth week of unrest in which protesters have also thrown up road blockades, strangling the capital and causing gas and food shortages in this impoverished Andean nation of 9 million people.

The crisis pits Indian and labor groups from the poorer eastern highlands, including La Paz and its poor satellite city of El Alto, against ruling blocks from Santa Cruz in the east and the oil-rich gas fields to the south that are pursuing greater autonomy.

  ABC article

In April, street protests forced Ecuador's Congress to vote President Lucio Gutiérrez, also a close ally of Washington, out of office.

  Miami Herald article

Democracy on the march! (I know you keep seeing that in print and hearing that from Buttie and the Boys - amongst whom I include Miss Thang - but they're talking about it in the Middle East, where they take credit for imposing it, in a typically Bush-ironic interpretation of the idea of democracy.)
Speaking to foreign ministers and diplomats from 33 other countries gathered here for the general assembly of the Organization of American States, Rice said that governments in the Americas are no longer divided between liberal and conservative. The divide "is between those governments that are elected and govern democratically and those that do not."

Rice urged the OAS to "strengthen democracy where it is weak" and to "support democracy where it is threatened." But a U.S. proposal to empower the OAS to monitor democratic trends, as a way to head off problems, got a lukewarm reception, with some countries believing it would invite U.S. meddling.

  WaPo article

That's absurd, say Beavis and Buttie. Just is.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who chairs the summit as head of the host delegation, said Sunday the Bush administration has a "renewed interest" in the OAS as a way to promote its global democracy agenda.

  CNN article

Uh. Well, it's still absurd.
President George W. Bush warned the Organization of American States on Monday of threats to the region and lauded the benefits of free trade.

But a U.S. campaign to strengthen the OAS and help it fortify democracies appeared headed for a setback at the group's general assembly in Fort Lauderdale.


"Madam Secretary, democracy cannot be imposed," Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, host of the annual conference.


Foreign Minister Alí Rodríguez of Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chávez, is often at odds with Washington, said democracy can thrive in many forms as long as principles such as freedom of speech and respect for human rights are honored.

"In Venezuela, we have a democracy that is different from the democracy of the United States," he said. "But only one model? No. Definitely not."

  OC Register article

The Bush administration wants to create an early-warning mechanism that would help the OAS intervene when a democracy is threatened.


Given the lack of support for the U.S. initiative, diplomats said Washington and its supporters likely would have to settle for a watered-down compromise.

Many members seem to favor a proposal presented by Chile that postpones hard decisions. That draft resolution asks new OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and others to suggest improvements.

The Chilean initiative, which is supported by 11 countries, stipulates that the OAS should not act unless it is invited to do so by a country in crisis, a key demand of Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and other nations.

Venezuela argues that the region's real problem is poverty.

"The quality of life is simply nonexistent and as a result the quality of democracy is simply precarious and its strength uncertain," he said. "Democracy and poverty are simply incompatible."

  Miami Herald article

"Principles have no real force except when one is well-fed." --Mark Twain
"There needs to be a dialogue rather than an intervention," said Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Amorim. "Democracy cannot be imposed. It is born from dialogue."

  CNN article

Rice, 50, recommended that the Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted Sept. 11, 2001, as a blueprint for promoting democracy in the region, serve as the basis for the new monitoring mechanism.

"In this document, we all affirmed our intention to defend our people's right to democracy. Now we must act on this pledge," she said in her speech.

Using the charter as a model may pose challenges. Under Article 18, any outside intervention to help deal with democracy troubles requires the consent of the country of concern.

  Bloomberg article

And can't you just imagine the U.S. response to a proposal that an organization of other countries be empowered to intervene when they thought the U.S. government wasn't functioning exactly democratically?
"Together, we must insist that leaders who are elected democratically have a responsibility to govern democratically," Rice told the gathering of OAS foreign ministers.

  Bloomberg article

"I learned how to earn political capital and how to spend it. A president must be willing to tell both Republicans and Democrats, 'I'm going to spend capital myself.'" -- George W. Bush

The administration has been quick to enforce its code of silence, regularly retaliating against those within its ranks who try to offer an independent perspective on its policies. While the most infamous examples of this involve international affairs, the purest episode may be the case of chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster, who apparently was threatened with dismissal if he told Congress the real projected cost of Bush's Medicare bill.  Reason.com article

"Wherever a free society is in retreat, a fear society is on the offensive," Rice said. "And the weapon of choice for every authoritarian regime is the organized cruelty of the police state."

  WaPo article

Oakland Police Open Fire on Protestors

4/7/03 - Oakland, CA police open fire
on war protestors
Victim of Oakland Police Fire

Injured activist attorney
prepares case against City
victim of Oakland police fire

Anti-terrorism Intel:
blurring terrorism &
civil disobedience

Underreported photos of Miami police action at FTAA peaceful protest November 2003

Miami video

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